Researchers compare reproduction rates in North Atlantic whales with genetic variation
A recent study focusing on the humpback whales of the Gulf of Maine revealed that differences in reproductive success of whale mothers may play a significant role in changing genetic variation in the population, according to scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the American Museum of Natural History and their collaborators. Specifically, certain maternal lines of whales have produced more calves than other lines in the past decade, a finding that uncovers the often-complex role of genetics and environment in the makeup of this population of long-lived mammals.
In the study, published in the most recent issue of The Journal of Heredity, researchers compared more than two decades of field observations on humpback whales from the Whale Center of New England with genetic samples collected with biopsy darts, which remove a small piece of skin from the backs of these marine mammals. If current trends continue, the humpback whale population of the Gulf of Maine could show shifts in genetic variation over the next 75 years, with some maternal lines becoming more common than others.
John Delaney | EurekAlert!
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